Lyndon Johnson swamped Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential contest, but a couple of years later, with a conflict raging in Vietnam that would eventually undo Johnson, Goldwater supporters could joke about the election. "They told me if I voted for Goldwater, we'd have war," the joke went. "I voted for him anyway, and sure enough we've got war."
Vice President Dick Cheney may not have heard it, as he was frantically burrowing underground to avoid the draft at the time. If he did hear, he didn't get it.
Cheney told a crowd last week that only a vote for the Bush-Cheney ticket would keep the terrorists away: "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
Even in an audience of sympathizers, some must have noted the irony in Cheney's address. "He's right," they would have reflected. "Four years ago, we made the wrong choice, and sure enough we got hit by terrorists."
It was really the Supreme Court that chose Bush and Cheney, overriding the will of the voters, but the point remains: Install the wrong people in positions of leadership, and bad things are likely to happen. Bush has been ever so wrong, presiding over not only terrorist attacks, but the greatest loss of American jobs in 75 years, a health care system that is both inadequate and unaffordable, and the shifting of taxes from rich to poor. This administration has effectively divided America in two - a Rich America that doesn't work, doesn't pay taxes, and whose sons don't go off to war, and a Poor America that would like to work but can't find jobs, that pays taxes on its meager income, and whose sons often join the military because there is no opportunity elsewhere.
Those who remark on this division are accused by Cheney of employing "some sort of class system or class warfare approach."
The billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has opposed Bush's tax cuts for the rich, has a fitting response: "If class warfare is being waged in America, my class is clearly winning." It is Bush and Cheney's class too. Buffett has the decency to be embarrassed by the widening gap between rich and poor. They do not.
If terrorists strike the U.S.A. again, they may be carrying assault weapons purchased in this country. A ban on these weapons that was enacted during the Clinton administration expired this week, at the insistence of the NRA. Bush did nothing to extend the ban, though he claimed to support it. When racked by indecision, he falls back on lack of principle.
When President-elect Trump announced he would, in a few days, force Congress to enact comprehensive health insurance for everyone, poor or rich, that would provide better and cheaper care than they've ever gotten, you had to wonder whether this guy is a miracle worker or a fool.
We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.